Tips for Standing Out in Another Unusual Holiday Shopping Season

Next-level tactics to consider for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

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Summer has come to an end, the back-to-school season has wrapped, and marketers can finally take a moment to rest. Right?

Of course not! The holiday shopping season is underway, and the pressure is on. This year we’re heading into yet another holiday shopping season riddled with uncertainty, with the good news of the wide availability of Covid-19 vaccines tempered by the rise of variants.

Allocating marketing budgets for uniquely effective campaigns to entice both in-store and online shoppers will be crucial to holiday success. There will be an urgent need to drive in-store traffic and also win share of wallet online—as both are expected to thrive together for the first time in two years.

With yet another unusual shopping season comes the need for creativity and ingenuity. Marketers can’t rely on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday tactics of years past. They will need to deliver experiences that stand out to both consumers and their merchant partners.

We’ve got some ideas for breaking through:

Think next-level incentives

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are known for door-busting discounts online and in-store, but will competitive pricing be enough to drive conversions in this environment? With virtually every brand and retailer shouting about slashing prices, consumers will need more than good deals to tempt them into stepping up to the cash register or filling their carts online.

Marketers should consider elevating their consumer incentives—not simply by offering the discounts they have been trained to expect, but by showing them ways to game out and get rewarded for a little smart extra effort.

One obvious way to do this is to offer stacks of rewards and incentives that combine into a compelling package. This has the dual benefit of making it tough for competitors to match the final price while convincing shoppers that they’re getting a uniquely enticing deal that they found “on their own.”

For example, a person in the market for a new television might be offered a 20% discount on one retailer’s site. A competitor could offer the very same TV at a 15% discount with an additional 5% cash back and the ability to pay in installments interest-free with a buy now, pay later arrangement. Even though the ultimate cash out of pocket might be effectively the same, an exciting set of incentives may actually be the more attractive suitor in the end.

There are many ways retailers and brands can craft creative deals to stand out in the Black Friday and Cyber Week tidal wave.

Add personalization and authenticity

For years, shopper surveys have proven that consumers value authenticity in their ad experiences. Marketers are finally beginning to act on this insight by investing in strategies that complement rather than interrupt the online shopping journey.

It’s a maxim that first-time buyers require a different kind of incentive than a loyal customer, so why not offer them a more dynamic ad experience? By personalizing an incentive to shop at a particular site, retailers can optimize enticing deals that drive conversions on a case-by-case basis, maximizing the potential to close a transaction regardless of their previous relationship with a particular shopper.

Marketers are finally beginning to act on this insight by investing in strategies that complement rather than interrupt the online shopping journey.

Beyond customizing offers, the delivery and online location of dynamic offers are also important. In crowded times like Black Friday and Cyber Week, marketers should focus on offering deals and incentives in formats that deliver authentic ad experiences, like activating trusted influencers or running affiliate marketing campaigns that sit seamlessly within relevant content.

Let’s go back to our TV shopper for a moment. She may be more convinced to purchase from the retailer offering cash back and BNPL if she sees the deal adjacent to or even streamlined into her favorite content.

Email, search and display are still undoubtedly important in the media mix, but contextually relevant and authentic formats may wind up being a lot more efficient and effective.

Bridge the online and in-store gap

While some people will shop for the holidays exclusively online or in-store, the majority will probably split their purchases between the two. In fact, a recent Shopkick study found nearly half of consumers (43%) plan to do most of their holiday shopping in-store, which means marketers need to make appeals to online and in-store shoppers alike.

Marketers can leverage the pandemic-led surge in ecommerce to drive foot traffic and attract offline customers into stores. Campaigns promoting digital in-store coupons, card-linked offers and exclusive in-store deals can bridge that gap between the online and in-store experience.

Beyond deals and incentives, retailers will need to consider consumer comfort with interacting in physical spaces on the busiest, most crowded and intense shopping days. Concerns about long lines and in-store congestion can be mitigated by investing in services like buy online, pick up in store or curbside pickup.

Navigating uncertainty

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are at the heart of holiday season success or failure, and the pressure is on.

With one uncertain shopping season followed by another—from the 2020 holidays to back-to-school this year—marketers have learned to be agile and inventive in allocating their attention and budgets. To stand out this holiday season, once again they are going to need to flex their creative muscles. Black Friday is the peak for competition and consumer attention, but these tips should help throughout the season.